We had the opportunity to catch up with our longest-tenured client, Damon Piatek, President & CEO of Welke Customs Brokers USA,
who shared some insights on how to get the best return-on-investment from chamber of commerce and business association sponsorships –
at home and in new markets.
1. How does your company utilize chambers of commerce and business associations in your growth plans?
Chambers of commerce and other business associations are integral in everything we do, especially when it comes to market entry. We walk into a market virtually unknown, and we use these groups to become a known entity. It happens quickly, and over the past few years, we’ve put it to use to build awareness of our brand in Cleveland, Pittsburgh, New York/North Jersey and Tampa. Had COVID not hit, we’d be running a dozen sales offices by now, and are gearing up to pick up where we left off as soon as possible.
Once we have a foothold, and reliable relationships, we’ve used our associations to position Welke USA as the experts in trade and trade compliance. We pitch presentations that will provide value for their members, and our alignment with the chamber or industry group offers instant credibility. Of course, we have to hold up our end and actually be a great resource for them, but those speaking roles quickly turn into introductions and referrals to prospects that we might not even know exist.
2. What advantage has working with Momentum offered your company?
One of the “lessons learned” we’ve had over the years when working with chambers of commerce and business associations is that you have to join the right ones, or else you’re throwing your money (and time) away. Many companies just join the biggest one, and find themselves lost among either a well-meaning group with no real prospects, or a saturated market.
We are much more tactical, and Momentum provides the intel for us. Which organizations to join, what’s the make-up of their membership, who are the key players, and how should we approach? Funny story, when we entered the Pittsburgh market, we were given some advice about a chamber to join and tried to go it alone. Big misfire. Momentum connected us with the Pittsburgh Airport Area Chamber of Commerce, the fastest-growing in the area and teeming with prospects for us. It’s been a phenomenal relationship already.
3. You’ve made education the focus of your outreach – how has that helped you in opening up new markets?
We have the advantage of working in a fairly confusing and complicated industry, trade compliance. Generally, companies have more questions than answers, and much of our competition focuses more on the transaction, the actual filing of a U.S. Customs entry, than the integration of that transaction into their supply chain. We educate importing companies because it helps them save money, save time and create opportunities.
Strangely, this makes us unique in the industry. When we do educational seminars through our business associations, we often hear, “Why isn’t my current broker telling me this stuff?” It’s a win-win for us and the organization, because they get to be the ones bringing the valuable information to their members. For us, a win-win proposition leads to strong relationships leads to new business.
4. What stands out as one of the most important opportunities Momentum has opened up for you?
Our relationship with the chamber in Pittsburgh has been so fruitful, it’d be hard to choose something that’s been more meaningful for us. The relationship has yielded speaking roles, direct access to both the leadership and members, introductions and even the address of our sales office. We set up shop right in their shared workspace!
This year has been a big one in North American trade with the implementation of the United States-Canada-Mexico Agreement, or USMCA. Living in this arena, we’ve been aggressive with our educational programs, and Momentum has landed us incredibly high-profile gigs in Buffalo Niagara, Pittsburgh and Akron, OH, positioning us as the go-to resource on the agreement. It is invigorating to know you have an agent out there constantly looking for opportunities for you.
5. What advice would you give to other companies trying to get their story told right now?
We started Welke USA during the Great Recession, and built the company by doing sales and outreach when many shied away from it. For whatever reason, when things are bad, the first thing companies cut back on is sales. We think that’s the exact opposite of what you should be doing, instead focusing on providing value to as many companies as you can reach.
The past several months have been difficult for everyone, but we haven’t let our foot off the gas. Yes, like any company, we took a hit, but we found that for any diminished business at the height of COVID, our outreach efforts ensured a pipeline of new business to replace it. This includes our work with chambers and business associations, and Momentum has continued to keep us on their radar screen, and in front of their members.
And don’t forget about referrals! Companies are looking for solutions right now, and if you establish yourself within your network as a reliable and expert resource, you will be sought after. This year, Momentum put us on panels with some of the highest-profile trade leaders in our markets. We have maintained those relationships for mutual benefit, and know that they’ll be long-lasting. Keep building relationships through your associations and keep selling!
Let’s have a 15-minute chat on how we can take what we do for Welke USA every day, and do it for you.